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Links plan loses on scorecard

There are more nays than yeas for proposal on city council

Posted: 05/22/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

Last Modified: 05/22/2013 7:39 AM | Updates

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The city's John Blumberg golf course (above) would be sold and four other city-owned courses leased to a private operator under a plan which now looks likely to be killed.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

The city's John Blumberg golf course (above) would be sold and four other city-owned courses leased to a private operator under a plan which now looks likely to be killed. Photo Store

Deputy mayor Russ Wyatt's drive to sell one Winnipeg golf course and lease four others has already landed out of bounds, as opponents appear to have enough votes to kill the proposal at city council next week.

On May 29, council will consider a plan to sell the city-owned John Blumberg golf course and sign a 20-year lease with Conestoga, Ont., operator GolfNorth Properties to run and maintain courses at Kildonan Park, Crescent Park, Harbour View and Windsor Park.

A two-thirds majority of the 16-member council will be required to approve the lease. Declaring the John Blumberg site surplus requires only a simple majority, but actually selling the land will require approval from two-thirds of council.

If the plan is not amended before next week, it is already dead, as seven of 16 councillors have problems with all or part of the proposal as well as a $90,000 city advertising campaign intended to garner public support for the plan.

"In light of what's taken place, I don't know how I can support it," Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck said Tuesday, adding her name to the list of councillors planning to give a red light to a plan to sell and lease the greens.

Couns. Brian Mayes (St. Vital), Dan Vandal (St. Boniface), Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry), Ross Eadie (Mynarski) and Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) had already declared they will vote against the golf-course plan for a variety of reasons.

Mayes questioned the financial assumptions underpinning the city's rationale for eliminating the golf courses. Vandal chafed at the expenditure of public funds on an ad campaign that originally included an attempt to lobby city council itself.

Both plan to vote against the golf-course proposal this morning when it comes before executive policy committee. That vote is expected to be 4-3 against if the proposal is not amended.

Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan, who also sits on EPC, will vote against the proposal if the John Blumberg sale is not severed from the lease of the four other courses.

He said he supports the GolfNorth lease but not the Blumberg sale, which he describes as "coming out of the blue" without any consultation with councillors or the RM of Headingley, where the 81-hectare site is located.

"We're going to need to split this up," Pagtakhan said Tuesday.

Havixbeck also said her "no" vote is conditional, suggesting the golf-course proposal could make the cut if Transcona Coun. Wyatt and Mayor Sam Katz, the main proponents of the plan, hold a council seminar on it and consider amendments.

Even if Pagtakhan and Havixbeck can be placated, no more than one more councillor could vote against the lease. Three more potential "no" votes exist -- those of undecided Couns. Justin Swandel (St. Norbert), John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) and Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan).

If the plan's defeat appears imminent, Katz and Wyatt have the option of withdrawing it from the floor of council next week. In 2012, widespread public opposition to the proposed sale of downtown surface lot Parcel Four to an Alberta water-park developer led to the withdrawal of that idea.

Public opposition to the golf-course proposal does not appear anywhere near as widespread as the wave of outrage over the water park last year. While the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500 and several community groups vocally oppose the golf-course plan, several councillors said their constituents are more outraged about the $90,000 ad campaign.

On Tuesday, Wyatt remained committed to the golf-course proposal, insisting it will save the city money and address concerns originally raised by an audit of the Golf Services special operating agency.

"Whether this council has the courage to make the right decision or not, the auditor's conclusions and the Golf SOA losses will not go away," he said in a statement.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 22, 2013 A3

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Updated on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 7:39 AM CDT: replaces photo, adds fact box

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